Prophylactic Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction: Lorell’s Story
Lorell: My husband and I have been married for 26 years. We have two sons, we live outside of New Orleans, and we love living here. We’ve owned this restaurant for 26 years. I worked the register and help with the customers and that kind of thing.
There’s a thing in the restaurant business; if you have time to lean, you have time to clean. Living down here in South Louisiana, we have higher cancer rate. It’s almost the thing you don’t want to think about, but it’s always there. When my sister came down with breast cancer in 1995, she’s 16 years older than I am; she’s the oldest, I’m the youngest. So, I guess you know she was lucky, and the fact that they caught it right away let’s do something about it right away. My father was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. He was 74, and then he started chemo; lost all his hair. Got really sick, didn’t feel good at all, and radiation. He didn’t make it through the treatment.
I felt like it was a monkey on my back. That was just always there. I knew it was there; I knew it was there. And I just knew it was a matter of time. I was getting older; I was past the age that my sister was when she had her cancer. Going to get mammograms, my yearly mammograms, you know, you have to sit there after they take your films, and you got to sit there and wait, and you got to sit there and wait. And you’re thinking, is this the appointment where they’re gonna find something? Is this the day that they’re gonna call me back and say, “Mrs. Horne Brooke, can you step this way, please.” Is this gonna be it? Let’s get this show on the road.
So, I had been having a head cold, and I wasn’t feeling very well. And I was laying down for those few brief moments before homework and dinner and everything in the afternoon. And the phone rang, and my caller ID said Dr. Stolier, Alan Stolier. He could tell by my voice that I wasn’t feeling well. I said no, I’m not feeling well. I have a head cold, and he said, “Well dear, your results came back, and you have the gene mutation. Let’s come in; why don’t you come in, and we’ll talk about it.” I felt I was too young; I had too much to do. I had too much life in me. I was too young to just let fate take its roll of the dice. 86% shot of getting cancer, it’s big, it’s looming, and I feel that it’s here, and it’s only a matter of time. It’s only a matter of time.
It’s an awful thing to have to face, but here I am, given information. You’ve got a pretty good cancer risk. Well, let me do something about it. I’m gonna do something about it. I felt that I could make something happen. I didn’t have to wait for fate to step in. I was empowered by it. Look what a horrible toll this horrible disease was doing to us. I could take the reins and say, this is what’s available to me, this technology, these talented surgeons, modern medicine. I’m gonna take every advantage that I can possibly take. I want it all. I want it all.
So, I would guess it was about six months. Where I was healing, and I wasn’t so inflamed or swollen, and I looked and said, I think I can really do this. This is not going to be bad at all.
Do you remember? I asked you if I were your daughter, would this be what you want me to do? And you said yes.
Dr. Stolier: I would have said probably, absolutely.
Lorell: I have a family business that I hope stays in the family for quite a while. I’d love to see my sons take it over. I’d love to see my grandchildren, but I’m really looking forward to it. Every minute is a gift, and I think we need to share that gift with everyone else that we meet in any way we can.
When Lorell, 50, tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation after her sister and father were treated for breast cancer, she decided to undergo prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction to take back control. Watch her describe how she found the strength to make this difficult decision and what it’s like to be on the other side of it.